Greece bear high expectations ahead of 2019 FIBA World Cup in China


(Photo: VCG)

ATHENS, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- The Greek Basketball Federation presented the national team's 18-man roster on Thursday in Athens ahead of the 2019 World Cup in China slated for August 31-September 15.

The Greek team is ready to lead their country back to the podium, a feat that Greece has not accomplished since 2006 after beating the United States in the tournament's semifinal.

The head coach Thanasis Skourtopoulos talked about the squad during the press conference praising the good quality and the characters of the basketball players.

"We are heading towards a tough world championship, maybe the hardest ever," he said.

This year, the Greek national team will have in its armory Giannis Antetokounmpo, the NBA's MVP after a dominant campaign with the Milwaukee Bucks.

"I join the national team after 2 and a half years. It is going to be a good experience. It's always nice to go back home," Giannis Antetokounmpo said after the press conference.

But he will not be alone. For the first time he and his two brothers, Thanassis and Kostas, have all been summoned to represent the Greek national team together.

"I am really excited to play with my brothers. Going to practices is always fun. I smile so much because I see my little brothers and my older brother being there with me," he said.

Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo have already played together in the Greek national team at the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Turin.

Regarding his expectations of the world championship, Antetokounmpo, "My biggest expectation for this championship is to have fun and to play hard."

He is looking forward to visiting China again, as he has been there too many times enjoying the culture, the beautiful places, and the food.

"I've been to China a lot of times. I love the country, the culture there, and the food. Last summer I was there, and I ate a lot of dumplings, a lot of chicken feet. It was fun," he told Xinhua.

Greek veteran Giannis Bourousis, a leader for Greece over the years, expressed his enthusiasm for playing again in China after playing for the Zhejiang Lions the past couple of seasons.

"I am very excited to go back and play with my national team to play in the world championship in China," he told Xinhua.

"My expectation is to play hard and to do the best for our national team. Now it is the time to work the practice and when in China to prepare for the official games," he added.

The team has already started its training camp. Between August 9 and 11, the Greek national team will host a friendly tournament in Crete against Hungary and Iran, before holding another competition in Athens with Italy, Serbia and Turkey from August 16-18.

Greece will depart for China on August 21. The first stop will be in the city of Suzhou, where they will play in a tournament as part of their last warm-up games against China, Jordan and either Turkey or Senegal.

Greece has been drawn into Group F along with New Zealand, Brazil, and Montenegro. Greece's first match is against Montenegro on September 1.